Procrastination and the LSAT

I get panicked phone calls pretty often, as you might imagine. I've published my cell phone number on my website and in my books for over 10 years now, so yes, I've asked for it.

This particular student has awesome grades (3.95!!!) from a good private school in Los Angeles, but she was panicked about what she perceived as low practice test scores (mid 140s) and a looming February deadline. Her first question: Do I have enough time to get prepped for February? Or should I withdraw?

I think I was able to talk her off the ledge. I told her that if she starts now, and studies a little bit every day, there's no reason why she shouldn't be ready for a test that's almost three months away. But the key part is start now. And that's why I wanted to write a bit about procrastination, and two different ways that it strikes LSAT students.

The first type of procrastination is obvious: You underestimate how much time something takes, you wait until the last minute, you try to cram it all in at the deadline, and you fall short. We've all done this from time to time, and this is what most people think of when they think "procrastination." I get dozens of these calls every year: "I self-studied, but not enough. I was busy with work and school and blah blah blah, so anyway I took the official LSAT without enough prep and got a 142." Yep, I've seen that one before.

But the second type of procrastination is a bit sneakier. With the second type, you actually overestimate how much time a project will take. That's what last night's panicked caller was doing. She was inflating LSAT prep into a gigantic 6- or 12-month endeavor, getting intimidated by her imagined giant, then using anxiety about the big scary monster to put it off studying entirely.

The remedy for both types of procrastination is the same: Do a little bit every day. It's incredible how much progress you can make if you simply commit to one hour today, then one hour tomorrow, then one hour every day after that until you reach your goal. No matter who you are, no matter how far you are from your goal, this is my prescription. Yes, you can do more than one hour per day if you want. But that first hour, every day, is far more important than whatever hours you pile on top of that. It's inefficient and unreliable to skip four days this week and try to make it all up on the weekend. Lawyers (and future lawyers) are very serious, diligent people. If you can't find one hour per day in your schedule for LSAT prep, then law isn't the right path for you, at least not right now.

Don't under- or over-estimate the task in front of you. Stop worrying and start acting. Today. And tomorrow. You'll feel so much better a week from now, I promise.